Her happiness was crushed when she was told she will have to pay $103.00 surcharge if she wanted to bring both her suitcases to Norway!
Mary had no money. Her new husband had traveled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call.
As Mary stood there, in front of the counter; with tears streaming down her face, a tall man whom she never seen before said; "That's okay, I will pay for her."
That man was Barack Obama.
Mary's hero became the first black President of the United States!
Fast rewind 22 years, 1988; Singapore International Airport, yours truly and family with THIRTEEN pieces of luggage; checking in at economy, Air New Zealand. We are migrating lock stock and barrel, from Penang to Wellington, New Zealand.
Like Mary, I was told by the Air NZ check in staff that my overweight charges was S$2,600!! And just like Mary, I was unable to pay that fee!
The airline staff suggest I can try asking those passengers with "under weight" luggage to tag ours to their names!
Believe me I tried and NOBODY came to my rescue! Would you? Why should you? To them, I am a total stranger; they don't even know what's in my bags!
I never felt so despaired in my life!
Just before we are going to miss the flight to our new life, I went and asked a Business Class Singaporean gentleman checking in with only an attache case.
He listened to my plea and after glancing at our two young daughters, asked in a soft voice, "Are those your daughters?"
Upon my confirmation, he agreed to take ALL our excess luggage!
That man was Mr. C.S.Wong, my hero!
On the 5th day after we arrived in Wellington, C.S. came and visit us at the motel and introduced us to Bin Leong and Helen who became our good friends!
After I read the Mary / Obama story two years ago, I wrote to C.S. with the story...
"What happened 20 years ago (please read story below) also happened to us about the same time in Singapore airport!
C.S., our heart felt thanks for the help you so selflessly gave us in 1988. Thank you. C.S.!
And also for introducing us to Bin and Helen and the friendship they showered on us through the years.
Thank you Binzies!!"
"It’s so very nice to hear from you again! Little did we know that small act at Changi Airport 20 years ago has been remembered for so long, and now even being compared with the story forwarded!
The big difference is that CS is not running for the Presidency and even if he wants to, he is not qualified as a candidate under the Singapore Elected President Law.
So you will not have a good story to tell the world what had happened 20 years ago at Changi Airport. Sorry about that!
Come to think of it, you have your children to thank for.
I am not sure if I would so readily agree to have your excess luggage counted under my luggage allowance if you were traveling without your young children.
They must have all grown up into fine young ladies now.
How about sending us a photo of the family?
As to introducing Bin and Helen to you, that was my great pleasure as I was confident the Binzies would make lasting friends.
Please call on us whenever you are in Singapore."
You know, I am sure given a chance; he will be a great president :)
CS and Lily came for a visit on Tuesday, Bin drop off CS at our place while they (Lily and my wife included) went line dancing.
The last time I saw CS was many moons ago, two hours was hardly enough time to catch up!
I introduced him to our NZ Licorice Tea which he immediately love and on Thursday night dinner, the NZ steamed Blue Cod which just as I thought; he thoroughly enjoyed!
Today we catch up again at a pre Xmas lunch with friends.
He and Lily will be flying back to Singapore tomorrow at 10 am. We wish them all the best!
Famous Last Words:
In life, everyone have their heroes and friends...
My larger than life hero is my dear father, he was the one who single handedly raising all NINE of us to adulthood and making sure that all of us received a good education!
Dad at the Mt Victoria pine track, 1997.
I remember in awe how my dad knock out two robbers with his bare fists, even though he was bleeding profusely after one of them stabbed him in the chest with a bayonet!
Dad and mum at a Lockwood show home, he was impressed with the solid pine construction.
I remember in admiration during the World War 2, he was the treasurer for the Anti Japanese Movement and how he collected funds, sending to China for the fight against the invaders.
How he nearly got found out and narrowly got executed!
Yes, he is my larger than life HERO and I still miss him :(
**** Hero will help you find good in yourself, your friend won't forsake you for somebody else ****
The Mary / Obama story -
Oct 05, 2008 - The Norwegian newspaper VG has reported a truly amazing story about a newly-wed trying to get to Norway to be with her husband, and the stranger who helped pay an unexpected luggage surcharge.
The blog 'Leisha's Random Thoughts' has translated the story:
It was 1988, and Mary Andersen was in line at the Miami airport checking in for a long flight to Norway to be with her husband. When it was finally Mary's turn, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.
"You'll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway," the man behind the counter said.
Mary had no money. Her new husband had travelled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call.
"I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions," says Mary.
As tears streamed down her face, she heard a 'gentle and friendly voice' behind her saying, "That's okay, I'll pay for her."
Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before. He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. "The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?"
Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man. He was nicely dressed, with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants, says Mary.
She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back.
The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.
Who was the man?
Twenty years later, she is thrilled that the friendly stranger at the airport may be the next President and has voted for him already and donated 100 dollars to his campaign:
"He was my knight in shining armor," says Mary, smiling.
She paid the 103 dollars back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway. At that time he had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker in Chicago, and had started his law studies at prestigious Harvard University.
Mary even convinced her parents to vote for him: In the spring of 2006 Mary's parents had heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided.
They chose to write a letter in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years earlier.
And Obama replied. In a letter to Mary's parents dated May 4th 2006 and stamped "United States Senate, Washington DC' Barack Obama writes:
'I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me of what happened at Miami airport. I'm happy I could help back then, and I'm delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Norway.
Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States Senator'.
The parents sent the letter on to Mary.
Mary says that when her friends and associates talk about the election, especially when race relations is the heated subject, she relates the story of the kind man who helped out a stranger-in-need over twenty years ago, years before he had even thought about running for high office.
UPDATE: Also, remember this was 1988, when 100 dollars was quite a bit of money, compared to today's value.
Thank you CY for your kind thoughts expressed in your blog. As I don’t know how to post a comment on your blog, I can only make a reply through the normal mail.
I feel humbled indeed to be put in the same class as Barack Obama!
I had not thought of running for the Presidency because no one ever wrote me a letter to encourage me to go for it!
Thank you for the lovely dinner introducing me to the NZ blue cod. Both Lily and myself enjoyed it thoroughly.
Thank you too for introducing me to Liquorice tea, and Feijoa tea.
They are the best New Zealand tea I have ever taken!
My wife and children love them too.
The good thing about them is that Lily & I can enjoy a cup after dinner without having to worry about being kept awake all night by caffeine in normal tea.
Whenever I sip from my cup of Liquorice or Feijoa tea, I also savour the friendship that has been accidentally forged through that fateful encounter at Changi Airport 22 years ago.
Do call on us whenever you are in Singapore.